Not just 1776: How other 4th of Julys shaped our history

  • The Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial in Kaskaskia, Illinois, features the 140-pound bell also known as "The Liberty Bell of the West," a gift from King Louis XV of France to the Catholic Church of New France. After George Rogers Clark took Kaskaskia from the British on July 4, 1778, the bell was rung in celebration.

    The Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial in Kaskaskia, Illinois, features the 140-pound bell also known as "The Liberty Bell of the West," a gift from King Louis XV of France to the Catholic Church of New France. After George Rogers Clark took Kaskaskia from the British on July 4, 1778, the bell was rung in celebration. Southern Illinois Group file photo

 
Updated 7/4/2020 6:55 PM

Daily Herald report

1778: On July 4, 1778, the daring takeover of Kaskaskia by Gen. George Rogers Clark secured the Illinois country for the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Clark and his small band of Virginia State Forces secured Fort Gage on the Kaskaskia River without firing a shot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

1800: The Indiana Territory was formed on July 4, 1800, carved out of Northwest Territory. It encompassed all of the present-day states of Illinois and Wisconsin and most of Indiana as well as part of Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio. In 1809, the Illinois Territory, with all of the present-day states of Illinois and Wisconsin as well as parts of Minnesota and Michigan, was established with its capital in the former French village of Kaskaskia.

1802: West Point Academy began operations July 4, 1802, with its primary goal of training military engineers. The academy was formed as part of the 1802 Military Peace Establishment Act which established a new set of laws and limits for the U.S. military.

1817: Construction of the Erie Canal began July 4, 1817. Many early settlers in northern Illinois came from northwestern New York state, after the canal opened in 1825, offering cheaper and more reliable transportation to the northern Midwest. Fox Valley towns like Geneva, Oswego, and Batavia were named after the New York hometowns of the new arrivals.

1836: Construction started July 4, 1836, on the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Inspired by the Erie Canal, it was designed to connect the Great Lakes Basin to the Mississippi Basin. Construction stalled for almost four years due to the state's financial troubles after the Panic of 1837. The 96-mile canal, connecting the Chicago River in Bridgeport to the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru, was finished in April 1848. In the early 1850s, passenger and small-goods transport soon shifted to the newly opened railway lines, though the canal continued to be a major transport line for heavy goods like grain, lumber and stone.

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1837: On July 4, 1837, the cornerstone was laid for the state's fifth capitol building. In this Greek Revival-style building, Abraham Lincoln made his "House Divided" speech to announce his 1858 U.S. Senate run. In May 1865, Lincoln's body was laid in state there before his burial in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Thousands of supporters pack the grounds of the Old Capital Building in Springfield in 2007 to hear then-Senator Barack Obama announce his bid for the presidency. The cornerstone for the building was laid 170 years earlier on July 4, 1837.
Thousands of supporters pack the grounds of the Old Capital Building in Springfield in 2007 to hear then-Senator Barack Obama announce his bid for the presidency. The cornerstone for the building was laid 170 years earlier on July 4, 1837. - Daily Herald File Photo

1852: As part of an Independence Day celebration on July 5, 1852, the famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass gave a keynote speech now called "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" Finding the celebration of "justice, liberty, prosperity and independence" offensive to enslaved people who had none of those things, he said, "The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn."

1863: After attempting two full-scale assaults against the fortified city of Vicksburg, General Ulysses S. Grant decided to use the expertise of the 45th Illinois "Lead Mine Regiment." Using lead mining techniques, the U.S. Army regiment was able to weaken the Confederate defensive fortification. The soldiers from northwestern Illinois were the first Union troops to enter the city and raise the Union flag. This flag is on display in the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum. Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton surrendered his forces on July 4.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

1871: Independence Day in 1871 featured setting the cornerstone for the new Evanston College for Ladies, according to the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives. The festivities, organized by the Women's Educational Aid Association and its President Frances E. Willard, included a parade, bands, a regatta on the lake, fireworks and many speeches, as well as "base ball match between the Ladies College nine and the Northwestern University nine." The event brought in $2,500 in ticket sales and $25,000 in pledges. The college opened in September with 236 students, but the Chicago Fire that October hampered its finances. By 1873, it became the Woman's College of Northwestern University, with Willard as the first Dean of Women. Willard later went on to lead the national Woman's Christian Temperance Union until her death in 1898.

The 19th-century activist Frances E. Willard was instrumental in founding the new Evanston College for Ladies in 1871.
The 19th-century activist Frances E. Willard was instrumental in founding the new Evanston College for Ladies in 1871.

1894: The July 4 holidays in Chicago were a tense time. In early May, 3,000 Pullman Palace Car Co. factory workers began a wildcat strike after the company reduced their wages by as much as 50% but did not lower their rents or food costs in the company town. Eugene V. Debs and the American Railway Union for unskilled railway workers soon supported the strikers by calling for a nationwide boycott, refusing to run trains that were pulling Pullman cars. During the 69-day strike, 30 people were killed across the nation during these clashes between capital and labor. To quell protests during one of the biggest labor actions in American history, President Grover Cleveland signed a law on June 28, making the first Monday in September a national holiday honoring American workers. Over the protestation of Illinois Gov. John Altgeld, a fellow Democrat, Cleveland ordered federal troops to march into Chicago on July 3. A week later on July 11, Debs and other ARU board members were arrested. Debs, who later ran five times for U.S. President, served his 6-month jail term from the Woodstock jail.

1867: The Union Stock Yard Company opened the Dexter Park racetrack on July 4, 1867. Named after Dexter, the legendary trotter, the park later had a baseball diamond set up inside the oval where the newly formed Chicago White Stockings (later renamed the Cubs) played in 1870. It was also the site of a famous wrestling rout when the world champion George "Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt lost to the upstart Iowan Frank Gotch in 1908. The American became the first world champion wrestler. After a fire destroyed the racetrack pavilion in 1934, the International Amphitheatre was built on the site.

1870: Congress passed a law making four days (first day of the year, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) as unpaid holidays for federal employees. In 1938, they were declared paid holidays.

1876: Suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony, were denied a request to present their "Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States" during the nation's centennial celebration at Philadelphia's Independence Hall. After a reading of the original "Declaration of Independence," five women approached the stage with a plea to be heard. Anthony then read their "Declaration" aloud, including their own articles of impeachment. "Our faith is firm and unwavering in the broad principles of human rights proclaimed in 1776, not only as abstract truths, but as the corner stones of a republic. Yet we cannot forget, even in this glad hour, that while all men of every race, and clime, and condition, have been invested with the full rights of citizenship under our hospitable flag, all women still suffer the degradation of disfranchisement."

1910: On July 4, 1910, the current heavyweight champ Jack Johnson faced off against former champ James J. Jeffries in the "Fight of the Century." The fight, which attracted 20,000 people, was held in a ring built for the event in downtown Reno, Nevada. Jeffries, billed as the "Great White Hope," was enticed to come out of his retirement with a guaranteed purse and personal contract to fight the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. Johnson knocked out Jeffries in the 15th round. The outcome of the match that evening sparked several days of street violence in 50 towns across the U.S. between whites and blacks. Two years later, Johnson returned to Chicago, opening one of the first mixed-race nightclubs. It lasted only a few months before being shut down by police. That fall, Johnson was arrested on charges of violating the Mann Act for "transporting women across the state lines for immoral purposes." In 2018, President Donald Trump pardoned Johnson on May 24, 105 years after his conviction. The Galveston, Texas, native died in a car crash in 1946 at age 68 and is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

In this Feb. 10, 1943, file photo, former boxer Jack Johnson looks through a scrapbook of newspaper clippings in Los Angeles. President Donald Trump in May 2018 granted a rare posthumous pardon to boxing's first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson's name more than 100 years after a racially-charged conviction.
In this Feb. 10, 1943, file photo, former boxer Jack Johnson looks through a scrapbook of newspaper clippings in Los Angeles. President Donald Trump in May 2018 granted a rare posthumous pardon to boxing's first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson's name more than 100 years after a racially-charged conviction. - AP File Photo

1917: On July 4, 1917, police arrested 168 people in Washington, D.C. during the "Silent Sentinels" picket in support of the "Anthony Amendment" which would give women the right to vote. The amendment, named after Susan B. Anthony, was first introduced in 1878. Some of the protesters were sent to a prison workhouse and sentenced to hard labor.

"Silent Sentenials" stand outside the White House in Washington D.C. Suffragists in 1917 were pushing President Woodrow Wilson and Congress to pass the "Anthony Amendment."
"Silent Sentenials" stand outside the White House in Washington D.C. Suffragists in 1917 were pushing President Woodrow Wilson and Congress to pass the "Anthony Amendment." - Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

1941: To mark the 165th anniversary of the Declaration, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a somber radio speech, with a warning against the isolationist sentiment. "I tell the American people solemnly that the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship."

1946: On July 4, 1946, the Republic of the Philippines gained full independence from the United States. Filipinos who served as soldiers in the U.S. military during the country's World War II occupation by Japan were given the opportunity for U.S. citizenship.

1951: As part of the 175th anniversary celebrations for the Declaration of Independence, President Harry S. Truman spoke in front of a crowd of 150,000 at The Mall. In his speech, Truman speaks of the first year of the Korean War, with the American military and United Nation member forces facing off against the Communist military forces under North Korea, the People's Republic of China, and the Soviet Union. He said, "the American people are not afraid. We have taken our stand beside other free men, because we have known for 175 years that free men must stand together."

President Harry S. Truman speaks on the grounds of the Washington Monument during ceremonies celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
President Harry S. Truman speaks on the grounds of the Washington Monument during ceremonies celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. - Courtesy of Abbie Rowe, National Park Service Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

1965: Five years before the first Gay Pride Parades in New York and Chicago, and four years before the Stonewall Uprisings, two organizations (The Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society) organized some of the earliest demonstrations of the modern LGBT rights movement. These pickets called "Annual Reminders" began in 1965 and took place each July 4 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The final "Reminder" took place less than a week after Stonewall on June 28, 1969.

1970: President Richard Nixon, with three of his supporters, Rev. Billy Graham, Bob Hope and J. Willard Marriott, organized "Honor America Day" July 4, 1970, on the National Mall. It drew 350,000 people for the evening's entertainment, which included a broadcast of the president's speech.

1976: Towns across American are celebrating the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. Locally, Elmhurst dedicated the Bicentennial Fountain, celebrating the 200th anniversary on July 3-5 with a parade, memorial ceremony, drum and bugle corps competition and a theater performance.

2012: Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of a new particle with a mass between 125 and 127 GeV/c2. Physicists suspected that it was the Higgs boson, part of a proposed mechanism to explain why particles have mass. Scientists had previously searched for signs of the Higgs boson in particle-collision debris at the Large Electron -- Positron collider, which was the Large Hadron Collider's direct predecessor, and at Fermilab's Tevatron in the U.S.

2019: President Donald Trump's "Salute to America" in the Capitol featured displays of military vehicles at the National Mall, a presidential address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, flyovers by the Blue Angels, and a fireworks display.

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